It’s that time of the year again: when the rush of summer starts winding down and the hustle and bustle of the school year is about to begin. Parents and students alike find themselves gearing up for a brand-new academic term, and one major part of the preparation process is shopping for school supplies. But with so many expenses on the horizon, from tuition fees to extra-curricular costs, how can one ensure they’re not breaking the bank? Enter smart shopping in the Inland Empire. These tips will help you budget and make sure that you have a sound financial plan in place.

The Inland Empire, a metropolitan area and region in Southern California, boasts a rich variety of retail destinations from malls to outlets and local stores. With so many choices at hand, finding deals might seem daunting, but by shopping smart and taking advantage of back-to-school sales, families can save a significant amount. Here’s a guide to doing just that:

1. Plan Ahead Before you even think about setting foot in a store, make a list. What do your children really need for the coming school year? While it’s tempting to purchase the trendy binder or the latest tech gadget, if it’s not truly necessary, it might be worth passing. Check your home for any leftover supplies from the previous year – it’s surprising how often items can be reused.

2. Research and Compare With your list in hand, do some online window shopping. Many Inland Empire stores post their back-to-school sales online, so you can compare prices and prioritize which stores to visit. Keep an eye out for coupons and online-only deals.

3. Take Advantage of Tax-Free Weekends In certain states, tax-free weekends are a boon for back-to-school shoppers. The Inland Empire, being in California, does not have a state-wide tax-free weekend for back to school. However, individual retailers sometimes offer “tax-free” promotions, effectively giving a discount equivalent to the sales tax.

4. Shop Local While big retailers often offer deep discounts, don’t overlook local stores in the Inland Empire. Many local businesses, from Riverside to San Bernardino, offer competitive back-to-school specials and shopping locally can also mean supporting community businesses. I was able to find supplies at 90% off our local Target!

Certain items, like pens, notebooks, and other basic supplies, are often cheaper when bought in bulk.

5. Opt for Bulk Purchases Certain items, like pens, notebooks, and other basic supplies, are often cheaper when bought in bulk. If you have more than one child or can collaborate with other parents, consider pooling resources and splitting the costs of these bulk items.

6. Consider Second-hand and Outlet Shopping The Inland Empire is home to several outlets and thrift stores. Places like the Ontario Mills or the Lake Elsinore Outlets often have back-to-school specials where high-quality items can be snagged at a fraction of their usual price.

7. Be Patient: Late Shopping Might Pay Off While many parents shop in the weeks leading up to the school year, there’s a secret to even deeper discounts: wait. A week or two into the school year, many stores slash prices further on back-to-school items to clear out inventory. This might be the perfect time to grab that expensive calculator or laptop.

8. Re-think “Back to School” Shopping Remember, not all school essentials need to be bought during the designated ‘back to school’ season. Items like clothes, especially with the Southern California climate, can be purchased as and when needed, sometimes at better discounts during off-peak times.

9. Leverage Student Discounts Many tech stores offer significant discounts for students, allowing them to keep within their budgets and stick with their financial plans. If you’re shopping for laptops, tablets, or software, always ask if there’s a student discount available. Some stores might require a valid student ID or email, so be sure to have those on hand.

10. Stay Connected Finally, sign up for newsletters or join the loyalty programs of your favorite stores. Not only will you be the first to know about sales, but you might also get exclusive coupons or early access to big sales events.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to mean emptying your wallet. With a little forethought, research, and patience, the Inland Empire offers a plethora of options to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

11. Utilize Cashback and Reward Programs
Many credit cards offer cashback or reward points for purchases. If you plan to use a credit card, choose one that offers the best rewards for shopping. Additionally, apps and websites like Rakuten or Honey can offer cashback for shopping through their links or using their codes.

What are some other tips that you can think of that could help with keeping up a financial plan? Leave a comment and check us out on Instagram where we leave more tips for you to see!